I suppose that, if you believe that certain events can be said to define who you are as a person, this is one such moment. It was a Friday evening in 1986 or 1987 and my parents, brother and I had gone to Rush Green Hospital to visit my Grandma. She'd had a stroke on the Wednesday morning and was rushed to hospital that day; however, being an NHS hospital, they did nothing to help her and by the Friday evening we were told that her chances of surviving the weekend were very slim. Mum was understandably upset, it was her mother after all, and Dad was upset too, although it hardly showed.
As the four of us returned to my brother's car, my brother kept on saying that Grandma would recover despite the doctor's prognosis. I, on the other hand, tried to remain as realistic as possible and, whilst remaining as hopeful and as emotionless as possible under the circumstances, tried to prepare my family for the worst. My brother didn't see the wisdom in my attitude and drove us home like a maniac, narrowly missing the opportunity of wrapping around a lamppost or two.
After we arrived home, my parents and brother went to their flat whilst I went alone to Grandma's flat across the road where I had been living since exam time at school because Grandma felt better knowing someone else was in the flat with her at night-time. I went into the living room and sat on the floor after taking the phone off the hook before bursting into tears. I was alone and inconsolable for over an hour. No one even bothered to see if I was all right or how I was coping with the news but in front of my family I put on an act, a mask of strength so they had someone strong to turn to. I, on the other hand, had no one to turn to.
All of this came flooding into my mind last night and it was like reliving the whole thing again. What happened that night defined what I was to become - a man who puts on a front in public to protect those around me while, in private, falling to pieces and so totally alone that I can barely cope with everyday life.
All I can hope is that my failing memory erases that night from my mind so I can't be hurt by the memory again. Unfortunately, I know only too well that the psychic mugger will always be out there in the dark, waiting to pounce.